Fun to say and fun to taste. The flavors of whiskey, bitter and sweet dance around your palette as you imbibe this courageous drink. If this cocktail were to take a genealogy test you can see that it has descended directly from the Negroni as well as the Manhattan. Gin was popular on this planet before whiskey, therefore it landed in the history books first. But make no mistake that Whiskey has become the champion spirit on many continents and has since become ubiquitous in cocktail history.
Once again, Harry’s New York bar of Paris is credited with the creation of this crowd pleaser. Since writing this blog post and researching the history of these recipes, this is the third time that Harry McElhone’s bar gets credit for a cocktail that has lasted almost a century. What were they doing behind that bar? What was their methodology for creating cocktails? And how can it be replicated? Excuse me for the tangent there but I feel it is necessary to ask some of these questions because it is obvious that greatness was attained behind that bar. Why do I say greatness? Because one of the only metrics for greatness is time, and most of these creations are approaching the 100 year mark!
Let us talk about the name. The first definition I became acquainted with comes from the New Orleans vernacular. People would say “Hey, I’m going on a boulevardier” which meant you wanted to dress nicely and strut around town with a drink in your hand. Flash forward to the open liquor laws still in effect today in that part of the country and it makes me giggle.
The other origin of the name comes from a passage out of The Essential New York Times Book of Cocktails article by Toby Cecchini which reads: “The origin of the name now becomes magically obvious to students of 1920s Paris. Erskine Gwynne was a wealthy young American lad who flitted off to Paris to start a literary magazine in 1927. This magazine was something along the lines of The Dial, The Transatlantic Review and other English language pamphlets that reaped a bountiful harvest by giving an early forum to writers like Hemingway, Joyce, Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Noel Coward, Thomas Wolfe and others. His magazine, for which there was also a full-page ad at the back of “Barflies and Cocktails,” was called The Boulevardier.” Both are fun to learn about, one is easier to remember.
Equal parts Rye, Campari, Sweet Vermouth; then stir generously and pour over rocks or into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange (bourbon works in place of rye if you’re in a pinch). There are many ways to mess with the portions of this drink by adding more or less of each. I encourage you to start with equal portions, and if it is too bitter or too sweet then add more of that American made whiskey until your satisfaction is complete.
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Maggie Kimberl is one of the most respected and prolific writers in American whiskey, and her journey into the bourbon industry is one-of-a-kind.
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